Secret Life of Pets, The: Animated Comedy Dominates Box-Office

Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets is dominating the U.S. box office with an estimated $96 million opening weekend at 4,329 locations.

The animated comedy took in $38 million on its opening day Friday, five times higher than the first day of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates with about $6.6 million at 2,982 sites.

The Secret Life of Pets will surpass the weekend’s second-place finisher — either Disney/Pixar’s fourth weekend of Finding Dory, which has won three consecutive weekends and is playing at 3,871 venues, or Warner’s second weekend of The Legend of Tarzan at 3,591 sites. Both are heading for weekends of around $20 million.

Fox’s launch of Zac Efron’s “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” will finish fourth with about $18 million, followed by Universal/Blumhouse’s second frame of horror sequel “The Purge: Election Year” with about $11 million at 2,821 sites and New Line-Universal’s fourth weekend of Dwayne Johnson-Kevin Hart comedy Central Intelligence with $8 million.

The Secret Life of Pets is the sixth-best opening of 2016, following Captain America: Civil War, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Finding Dory, Deadpool, and The Jungle Book, all members of the elite group of 39 titles that have opened with more than $100 million domestically.

It’s also a new opening weekend domestic record for an original animated film, topping the $90.4 million launch of “Inside Out” last summer.

The movie explores the lives of pets in Manhattan after their owners go to work, is performing well above recent forecasts, which placed it in the $70 million to $80 million range.

It’s another strong entry in the animated sector, which has been a key contributor to keeping the overall business healthy this year with “Dory,” Disney’s “Zootopia,” Sony’s “The Angry Birds Movie” and Fox’s “Kung Fu Panda 3.”

The “Pets” voice cast includes Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan and Albert Brooks. “Despicable Me” helmer Chris Renaud directs and Yarrow Cheney co-directs from a script by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch.

Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri and longtime collaborator Janet Healy produced the movie, which carries a relatively modest $75 million price tag.

The raunchy “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” starring Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza, is performing slightly better than forecasts.

Efron’s R-rated comedy “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” opened in May with a $21.8 million weekend for Universal.

Pets is by far the biggest opening of the year for Universal, which has seen only middling performance in 2016 after a record-setting 2015.

It’s also another success for Illumination, which opened “Minions” a year ago with $115 million on its way to a $336 million domestic total and $1.16 billion worldwide for Universal.

Finding Dory should finish the weekend with about $422 million as it surpasses Disney-Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War as the top 2016 domestic grosser and the 16th largest title of all time just behind The Lion King at $422.8 million. Captain America: Civil War is 20th on that list at $406 million.